Before this month is out, Sarah Kate will turn eleven years old.
We’ve officially reached the tween years, and while I know there’s a lot of growing up left to do, there’s no denying the fact she’s on the downhill to adulthood. Her body is changing, as is her attitude, and suddenly all of those concerns I had when she was small are no longer vague “somedays” but waiting just around the corner.
Many of those fears I had have subsided.
Sarah Kate has never once, to my knowledge, been bullied or mocked because of her disability. She has been able to participate in sports, has done well in school, and seems completely comfortable in her own skin (while I, at almost 44, analyze and criticize every wrinkle and alleged fat pocket and care entirely too much about the opinions of other people).
But those vague concerns have been replaced with specific ones.
Rapid growth this fall has wreaked havoc on Sarah Kate’s legs. She’s faced long plateaus before when she made no progress, but she’s never regressed. Looking through some photos last week, I chanced on one from a couple of years ago. She was standing up, playing the Wii, and her legs – and her shoulders and her core – were more upright and straight than I’ve seen them in months. It was disheartening.
I’m worried that she’s going to regress – permanently.
I try not to think about it, putting my efforts instead into nagging Sarah Kate about stretching and trying to figure out the best way to incorporate strength and flexibility into her life, now that she’s not a little kid anymore. I wonder whether it’s time to consider switching her to a physical therapist who works with adults, or a personal trainer, in order to begin her transition into caring for her own self. She’s only a fifth grader, but eventually she’s going to have to manage her own care and I’m pretty sure that a Little Tikes basketball goal won’t be a part of it like it has been for the last decade.
She’s a tween in more ways than one.
Middle school is also looming large in my mind. Fortunately, she gets a reprieve until seventh grade, unlike in many school systems, but beginning next year she’ll change classes – a “trial run” for middle school – and she won’t be able to store items in her homeroom desk like she’s done in years past. She already struggles to carry her backpack into school – we recently switched to a messenger-style bag, which is better but not ideal – and it’s only going to get worse from here.
How will she manage to navigate crowded hallways and lockers with such poor balance – especially when she’s one of the smallest kids in her class?
Assuming she can make it through the halls without falling, can she make it on time to class? Even if she can (barely), how much social interaction will she miss out on by taking that extra time? Of course, that might be a good thing, rather than a bad thing, but it’s still a Thing. The struggles we’re already facing, and the changes I know are coming soon make me worry about potential surgeries we had hoped to avoid, and to begin researching service dogs for people with spastic forms of cerebral palsy.